Spokane Journal of Business

Tech concern eyes Spokane

Clarkston maker of electronic cooling systems may move offices here, employ 300 to 400

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A Clarkston, Wash.-based developer of cooling systems for electronic components says it expects as early as 2003 to move its headquarters to Spokane and open a manufacturing plant here, both of which would employ 300 to 400 people.

The company, Isothermal System Research Inc., currently employs just 65 people and so far does only limited prototype manufacturing, mostly for the U.S. Department of Defense. By the time it arrives in Spokane, however, it will be ready to begin high-volume production and likely will need at least a 100,000-square-foot plant here, says company co-founder and President Don Tilton.

In the near term, Tilton says, ISR also is evaluating sites in Clarkston and Pullman for a 60,000-square-foot facility that would replace its current, smaller one. That project is expected to get under way within a year, he says.

We expect we will always have a large presence in this area because of the proximity to WSU, Tilton says. The new building in Clarkston or Pullman will primarily serve as our engineering research-and-development facility, where we will be involved in rapid prototype development and short-run unit production.

The company hasnt looked closely yet at where in the Spokane area it would build its planned new headquarters and manufacturing facility. Work on that project isnt expected to begin before the spring of 2003, Tilton says. He says the vast majority of the jobs here would be in manufacturing.

Our reason for looking at Spokane for those operations is primarily related to transportation, he says. It provides better access to rail, interstate shipping, and airline transportation.

The company currently operates in a 35,000-square-foot facility in Clarkston, where its workforce is expected to grow to 100 by year-end, and to 175 after it relocates to the new facility planned for either Clarkston or Pullman.

Tilton says he began working on a spray cooling technology while working on space-based weapons systems at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. He continued his research while in pursuit of his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky. The work led him to co-found ISR in 1988 with his brother, Chuck, who also holds a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in the development of similar technologies for Boeing Co. Chuck Tilton serves as ISRs chief technical officer, and the two brothers remain the primary owners of the company.

Although the company currently has no products in high-volume production, Tilton says the company achieved revenues of about $3.5 million last year, primarily from research development funding. As it shifts from research to prototype development work, the company is projecting that its revenues will reach nearly $8 million this year. He says prices for prototype units are substantial, averaging between $50,000 and $100,000, and that so far 95 percent of the companys business is with the Department of Defense.

ISRs multiple-patented microprocessor-controlled spray cooling technology employs an atomizer array that mists electronic components with a dielectric fluid. In the process, components are lightly coated with a film of that fluid that then vaporizes, removing the heat from the components. The vapor is then transported to a heat-rejection unit before being cycled back to the atomizer array by miniature brushless pumps.

The company says the technology is adaptable to a variety of electronic systems and components and is suited to a broad range of military and commercial applications in computing, telecommunications, and power electronics.

  • Rob Strenge

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